Stephen Lamb was born to a family struggling to cope with a tragedy. Years ago when his mother was a young girl her brother was kidnapped and killed by a serial killer. Whereas the bodies of most of his victims were found, buried on Exmoor, the body of Stephen’s Uncle Billy was never found. Stephen knows that if he can find the body his family might be able to begin to heal, and so spends all of his free time digging on the moor hoping each time that today will be his lucky day. A school lesson on persuasive writing makes him realise that he has a knack for letter writing, and so he decides that maybe there might be a better way to find the location of Billy’s grave.
This debut novel by Belinda Bauer has won this year’s CWA Golden Dagger Award so I was keen to give it a go. Within the first few chapters I found myself getting pulled into the story, and soon found it hard to put it down. I kept setting arbitrary points at which I would stop reading and get on with all the things I should be doing, but as soon as I hit my stop point I found a reason to set a new point and just carry on reading.
The plot is a carefully crafted one that deals with some potentially difficult topics. A lot of time is focused on Arnold Avery, the child killer and paedophile, and at times reading what he is thinking and plotting does make for uncomfortable reading. I have seen other reviewers draw parallels with the Moors Murders and can see that for some this would be a challenging read. I personally thought the balance was well kept, and a lot of crime thrillers contain content that isn’t suited to all readers’ tastes.
I thought the characters were well crafted, and the plot was certainly engaging. I will be looking forward to reading what Bauer writes next.
“Blacklands” is published in paperback by Corgi Books in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.